Composer David S. Berstein: Late Autumn Moods and Images - watch the interview
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Rhythm and its changeability excite the music of American composer David S. Bernstein. A mind teeming with interesting ideas and fascinating ways to structure them, Bernstein’s sound layering can be dense; in its darkest corners, lots of raw but always keenly focused power. Because he is also a master of color, imagery, and nuanced memory, episodes of transcendent beauty dot the landscape of Bernstein’s music, enriching the narrative, and igniting the imagination. Discussions take place, seasons change, there is questioning and doubt; the composer's musical world is all too human, immediate and engaging. The form and sensibility of Bernstein’s craft, his gift for clear messaging, make a first encounter immediately satisfying.
A first-class sampling of five fascinating and beautifully constructed chamber works from Bernstein’s catalogue is offered on an impeccably produced CD by North Pacific Music – NPM LD 035 titled Late Autumn Moods and Images. Included on the disc are Bernstein’s Late Autumn Moods and Images for Violin, Cello, and Piano; Petite Suite Chromatique for Cello and Piano; Quadralogues III for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano; Quadralogues II for Flute, Oboe, Percussion, and Piano; and Six Sound Sculptures for Clarinet and Piano.
Superlative performances are turned in by a broad sampling of the Pacific Northwest’s best musicians including Principal Violist Joël Belgique of the Oregon Symphony; Joel Bluestone, head of the Percussion Department at Portland State University; Principal Flutist David Buck of the Oregon Symphony; Hamilton Cheifetz, Principal Cello of the Oregon Ballet Theatre and member of the music faculty at Portland State University; Alexandre Dossin, a member of the piano faculty at the University of Oregon School of Music; Barbara Heilmair, Assistant Professor of Clarinet at Portland State University; Principal Cellist of the Oregon Symphony Nancy Ives; Susan DeWitt Smith, pianist for Portland’s Third Angle New Music Ensemble; violinist Inés Voglar, Artistic Director of Portland’s fEARnoMUSIC and a member of the violin section of the Oregon Symphony; and Karen Wagner, Assistant Principal Oboe of the Oregon Symphony.
The disc’s namesake, Late Autumn Moods and Images for Violin (Voglar), Cello (Ives), and Piano (Dossin) is loaded with harmonic drama and restless rhythmic moodiness. All three artists perform the three-movement work to perfection. Petite Suite Chromatique for Cello (Cheifetz), and Piano (DeWitt Smith) is magical. In four movements, Bernstein explores both instruments’ color capability and technical versatility to good effect. Quadralogues III for Violin (Voglar), Viola (Belgique), Cello (Ives), and Piano (Dossin) is full of raw power, yet sensibly ordered and contained. Quick shifts in temperament both expressive and aggressive lead to a sizzling finale with stellar performances by Voglar, Belgique, Ives, and Dossin.
An exciting color change is provided by Bernstein’s Quadralogues II for Flute (Buck), Oboe (Wagner), Percussion (Bluestone), and Piano (DeWitt Smith). An aural treat for listeners, Bernstein hobnobs compositionally over an array of keyboard and other percussion instruments and timbres which punctuate, usually gently, several deliciously vaporous piano meditations in the two-movement work. A perfect example of Bernstein’s mastery of craft and arch, Quadralogues II is a find. Likewise, the last work on the CD, Six Sound Sculptures for Clarinet (Heilmair) and Piano (DeWitt Smith). Short tableaux for the instrument, Bernstein again reveals his impeccable craft and sophisticated taste. Skilled writing for clarinet, performed with virtuoso finesse by Heilmair, animate these lovely cameos. Heilmair’s tone is writ large as well as whisper gentle, illuminating both the music and her experienced control over degrees of dynamic flux that give the instrument a wide-ranging capacity for colorful narrative. Pianist DeWitt Smith is a collaborative jewel throughout. Sound Sculptures are just that; delightful, always interesting and succinctly pointillistic – a good listen and important addition to the clarinet recital repertoire.
Jack Gabel at NPM has single-handedly captured on this disc the delicate interactions brought to the studio by these diverse ensembles and instruments without the slightest electronic taint. The sound quality on this CD is clean, the editing seamless. And the performances by these wonderful pros of the Pacific Northwest, inspiring!
Daniel Kepl | Performing Arts Review
INTERVIEW WITH AMERICAN COMPOSER DAVID BERNSTEIN
American composer David S. Bernstein
Clarinetist Barbara Heilmair
Cellist Nancy Ives
Pianist Susan DeWitt Smith
Violinist Inés Voglar
Oboist Karen Wagner
Violist Joël Belgique
Flutist David Buck
Cellist Hamilton Cheifetz
Pianist Alexandre Dossin
Percussionist Joel Bluestone